Solitude of Ravens
Masahisa Fukase's Solitude of Ravens is at first glance a tough set of pictures to look at. The stark black and white frames pull you into a filmic world of nightmares and never-ending gloom.
Yet stick with it, and though you will find the collection packs a powerful emotional punch, it also shows how a photograph can speak about far more than what it depicts.
The work was created between 1976 and 1982 following Fukase's divorce, and it is perhaps that little fact that can change how you read these images. They are dark and mysterious, yet this is a personal statement of loss.
Akira Hasegawa wrote the afterword to the book of the work and captures this well.
"In the case of Masahisa Fukase, the subject of his gaze became the raven. For him, the 'raven' was both a tangible creature and a fitting symbol of his own solitude."
One could argue that these are the saddest set of images ever created, but we should be aware that our reading of them is affected by the knowledge of why they were created. Yet even without that knowledge, each frame seems to contain some kind of pain.
Technically they are far from perfect, but that, too, adds to the feeling of honesty: Fukase's desire to visualise his internal thoughts and feelings.
The pictures work as single frames but together they show what can be achieved by an artist with a camera, and though widely seen before are well worth another look.
Fukase was born in 1934 in Bifuka, Japan, and the defeat of his country during World War Two is said to have shaped much of his work, and indeed that of others with whom he collaborated. He set up a photographic school, The Workshop, with Daido Moriyma and Shomei Tomatsu in the 1970s.
Masahisa Fukase died in 2012 having been incapacitated by a fall that left him in a coma 20 years earlier.
Prints of the work from the private collection of Masahisa Fukase are on show at London's Michael Hoppen Gallery from 23 February to 23 April 2016.
All images are Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.